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IWWAGE-Institute for What Works to Advance Gender Equality

Impact of Centre-based Quality Childcare on Maternal Employment & Early Childhood Development Outcomes

India has low Female Labour Force Participation (FLFP) and this has ramifications on women’s economic empowerment and India’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The issue is compounded by time-poverty endured by women, masking the burden of unpaid work, a part of which is unpaid care for the children and the elderly. Often, social protection and child development programmes in India, and globally, target a certain population in isolation, ignoring unintended consequences – for example, child nutrition programmes often prescribe interventions without considering the demands these impose on a woman’s time. At a household level, this translates into exacerbating time poverty for women and deprives children of direct care in early childhood. At the state level, this results in disjointed or siloed social protection policies and diluted programmes for women’s empowerment and child development. “Centre-based Quality Childcare: A Case for Public Investment for Improved Maternal Employment and Early Childhood Development” is a three-part series of papers.

The series is a commentary that emphasises the inter-connectedness of labour, women’s empowerment, and child development policies and programmes. It elaborates on this inter-connectedness’s criticality in planning and implementation to actualise the additive effects (positive feedback loops) and alleviate exposure to risk factors and unintended consequences (negative feedback loops), especially at the critical points in the life cycle of a woman (childhood to adulthood). More specifically, this first paper in the series maps the pathway on how accessible, affordable and quality centre-based childcare can support women by reducing and redistributing the unpaid care work, thereby alleviating time poverty to a certain extent and improving the quality of care for children. It brings together evidence of how public provision of centre-based childcare has had positive impact on the two outcomes of interest – maternal employment as well as various aspects of early childhood development for children under six years of age.

Making Skill India Work for Women

By now, the facts of Indian women’s labor market participation that should be jarring have become rote: Indian women, particularly rural women, have dropped out of the labor force in a period of strong economic growth; Indian women’s labor force participation rates are lower than all other G20 countries outside of Saudi Arabia; and the latest Labour Force Surveys suggest that, even at less than 24% overall1, female labor force participation continues to decline.Frequently, Skill India is mentioned as a means of altering this pattern for young women by bringing them into the workforce. Such skilling programs can give women useful training and directly connect them with employers who are eager to hire them. The most recent NSS employment data (2011-12), suggests that young, unmarried women are a particularly high potential group: they have very low labor force participation rates, but report relatively high interest in working—32% of respondents in rural areas and 28% of respondents in urban areas who were out of the labour force reported willingness to work (Pande, Moore, & Fletcher, 2017). Data from a small survey we conducted with skills trainees in Madhya Pradesh further substantiates this: women were less likely to be working than men, but unemployed women and men reported similar levels of job search, even for jobs that required migration2.While skilling provides substantial opportunities for young women’s economic empowerment, constraints to women’s participation in such programs abound. In a context where income- generating opportunities are absent for women, norms have emerged that reinforce this exclusion and impose substantial barriers to women’s entry. Even when quotas for women’s participation in skilling programs exist, our research has highlighted the myriad of challenges women face to join skilling and then in translating this skilling into a longer-term employment opportunity. In a survey of 2,610 former skilling trainees, we see a clear leaky pipeline for women. Women are less likely to receive job offers at the end of skilling, highlighting potential discrimination. On the supply side, female trainees are also less likely to accept job offers they do receive (see figure 1). Contrary to common expectation, women that join jobs are just as likely to stick with them as men. While this provides some scope for optimism, all trainees report disappointing employment outcomes overall: one year after skilling, only 1 in 5 former trainees still earned an income.

So what keeps women from joining skilling and remaining in jobs? Our research to date, which has included a small survey in central Madhya Pradesh of potential trainees and their parents3, a phone survey of former skilling participants from seven major states, and analysis of administrative data from Odisha, a top skilling performer, point to several clear constraints to women joining skilling:

 First, women’s skilling and labor force decisions are made in consort with, and typically with permission from, family members. These coordinated decisions often inhibit women’s ability to take-up skilling and employment. Despite women wanting to work at high rates, male family members often retain more gender-biased attitudes towards women’s work: from our small survey in Madhya Pradesh 31% of fathers and 42% of male youth did not believe that women should go out to work. In our phone survey of former trainees, the top reason women reported not accepting a job was that their family did not give them permission to do so (see figure 2).

Males, in contrast, most frequently declined jobs because of dissatisfaction with compensation. Similar dynamics were reported with respect to leaving post-skilling employment, where women dropped out as a result of family pressure and men dropped out principally because of job-related dissatisfaction.

Second, with the growing demand for skilled work in urban cities, migration raises major concerns about safety for both women and their families. In a small survey of training-eligible youth in central Madhya Pradesh, 69% of females reported it is unsafe to live away from home even during training, compared to 31% of males. Male guardians also overwhelmingly report they believe crime is more likely to happen in urban areas than the village (85%), and both violent and non-violent crimes are more likely to happen to women (84% and 86%, respectively), suggesting they would be relatively more concerned for their female family members’ safety post-migration than males’. These concerns, due to the influence of family members on girls’ employment decisions, have limited women’s take-up of skilling – when women are offered jobs outside their district and state, their job acceptance rates decline. The same does not hold for males.

Third, potential trainees seem to have inaccurate expectations regarding their wages in jobs post- skilling, which may limit the perceived value of skilling for women. This discrepancy is clearly a barrier for males’ skilling success, but may also keep family members from allowing women to accept job offers after skilling. In our survey of potential trainees in rural Madhya Pradesh, male youth reported they would need to earn 13,827 INR per month to accept a job in Bhopal and women report they would need to earn 12,231 INR per month. These reservation wages nearly double when considering migration to Delhi: male youth report that they would need to earn 26,788 INR per month to relocate to Delhi and female youth require only 20,740 INR per month on average4. In reality, the average monthly salary offered to DDU GKY trainees for jobs in Delhi is 7,800 INR and 6,550 INR in Bhubaneshwar.

These three critical facts pointed our research team to the importance of two crucial pieces of the female skilling and employment puzzle: First, given high leakage along the “skilling pipeline”, it is necessary to identify which women are most interested and likely to take up training, accept jobs, and remain in employment prior to investing in training them. Second, to involve women in skilling and employment, families need accurate information and support help them feel comfortable giving women permission to join skilling. To address these issues, our team at EPoD India at IFMR, along with researchers from Harvard and Oxford, is working with the state of

4 In contrast, average monthly wages for the youth who were employed was Rs. 8,771 for male youth and only Rs. 1,527 for female youth.

Odisha to test whether local self-help group (SHG) leaders can better identify willing women workers (and supportive families), and provide potential trainees and their family members with information to encourage women to take up skilling.

The theory of change behind such an approach assumes that SHG leaders have networks that will be able to identify willing trainees. They will have an insider’s perspective on which potential candidates will be successful since they can screen for characteristics related to labor market success –a family’s need or even potential participants’ individual traits – in ways that a recruiter from outside the village cannot. These local leaders are likely also well-connected to potential trainees’ families and can serve as an important liaison between training centres, employers, and the government.

Our project takes place across 317 Gram Panchayats in Ganjam and Nayagarh districts in Odisha. Through an RCT, we study Odisha’s SHG-linked recruitment model. We compare SHGs across three groups: In some randomly selected areas, training centers recruit participants using traditional methods of sending center staff to rural villages. The two other randomly selected groups employ the SHG-linked recruitment approach, where local female SHG members recruit trainees instead of training center staff. These two groups differ in terms of the training they received – one group of SHG recruiters received the standard training and the other group received additional information on male and female trainees’ employment prospects in different locations, and potential wages across locations. This additional information we hope will help equip these leaders with more accurate information to share with families about young women’s employment prospects post training. While the study is on-going through 2019, we are optimistic that this study will help us understand both the efficacy of the SHG-linked recruitment model, as well as to identify strategies to address some of the barriers that still keep women from benefitting fully from Skill India.

Charity Troyer Moore is the India Research Director for Evidence for Policy Design at the Harvard Kennedy School. She leads research-policy engagements with a variety of entities in India to ensure that research is attuned to the problems facing policymakers and integrated into policy design and program implementation.

Soledad Prillaman is a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow in Politics at Nuffield College at the University of Oxford. Her research interests lie at the intersections of comparative political economy, development, gender, and the politics of the welfare state, with a focus in South Asia



Artiz Prillaman, Soledad, Rohini Pande, and Charity Troyer Moore. “Can Skill India Help Rural Women Integrate into the Labor Force? Learning from a Successful State.” 2018. Draft working paper prepared for the International Growth Centre.

Artiz Prillaman, Soledad, Rohini Pande, Vartika Singh, and Charity Troyer Moore. “What Constrains Young Indian Women’s Labor Force Participation? Evidence from a Survey of Vocational Trainees.” 2017. Available here.

Evidence for Policy Design and IFMR. “Women and Work in India: What do we Know?” 2016. Policy Brief.

Pande, R., Moore, C. T., & Fletcher, E. K. (2017). Women and Work in India: Descriptive Evidence and a Review of Potential Policies. CID Working Papers 339.

Impact of COVID-19 on Rural SHG Women in Odisha

The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns to curb the virus have had far-reaching impacts globally. The situation in India has been particularly difficult, with the country recording over 8.9 million cases as of November 2020. The nation-wide lockdown announced on 24 March 2020 had devastating effects on millions of people, their livelihoods and income generating activities. Given the scale of the crisis, it becomes imperative to focus on the impacts on already disadvantaged groups, and more specifically, on women and girls. Experiences from past disease outbreaks globally, demonstrate the need for a gendered analysis for preparedness and response.

This report presents findings from the study, ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Rural SHG Women in Odisha’, conducted by the Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) and Project Concern International (PCI). The main objectives of this study were to (i) study the overall impacts on women’s well-being during and post the lockdown period, and (ii) understand SHG participation in COVID-19 response activities. Overall, the study demonstrates that rural women in Odisha have had to contend with rising stress and anxiety, loss of income, and an increased load of household work. Concomitantly, the SHG movement has proved to be an immense source of strength and support for women. The report concludes with a set of recommendations to strengthen the SHG platforms and state- run gender initiatives, and to invest in digital tools as these have proved to be a means through which women have kept in touch with family and friends in difficult times.

Digitisation of Self-Help Groups in India

Self Help Groups (SHGs) have progressively become a key focal point for empowerment of women by mobilising them and bringing about a change in their condition in India. Digitisation and the use of technology in the processes followed by SHGs can have significant streamlining effects, particularly in addressing pain points. Digitisation can deliver extensive benefits by, for instance, reducing complexities in monitoring and evaluation of SHGs, minimising inefficiencies and inaccuracies in resource allocation, mitigating information fragmentation among stakeholders, bridging capacity constraints through training and literacy-based initiatives, and so on. The National Rural Livelihoods Mission (NRLM) and its state chapters, prominent stakeholders in the ecosystem, have made significant headway in digitising processes for SHGs.

The landscaping assessment aims to serve as a roadmap for State Rural Livelihoods Mission (SRLM)-backed programmes in successful digitisation of all processes associated with SHGs. This report highlights the current initiatives undertaken within the technology space and maps the trajectory of digitisation that various promoting agencies have followed. It seeks to inform the key gaps that exist within the current NRLM/ SRLM-backed digitisation initiatives. The report further identifies programmes within the ecosystem that have successfully bridged these gaps; it also highlights key focus areas that remain to be addressed within the ecosystem. In terms of mapping the readiness of SRLM programmes to carry out successful digitisation, findings suggest that most programmes face the ‘phase’ issue, that is, they have a clear trajectory of the digitisation phases to adopt but are faced by a limitation of resources and ability to embrace a multi-focus approach to digitisation. The SHG ecosystem’s approach to addressing these focus areas will determine the success of digitisation initiatives and ensure their self-sustenance in the long run.

Women in Agriculture

This section draws from an ongoing Initiative for What Works to Advance Women and Girls in the Economy (IWWAGE) and Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) study that aims to understand the impact of structural transformation in agriculture on female employment over time, by assessing the role of women farm managers. This study uses data from the India Human Development Survey (2004-05, 2011-12) to understand the rise in female farm management, its variation along demographic dimensions, and the differences between cultivator households managed by men and those managed by women.